Homeowner questions liability after neighbor’s tree falls on his house during storm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Strong storms hit southern Indiana on Wednesday, downing trees and powerlines.
As a homeowner, a tree falling onto your house might be your worst nightmare. Especially if it’s your neighbor’s tree.
But before someone goes to send their neighbor the bill, they might want to double check who’s actually liable.
One man is dealing with the mess and has one message: “I told you so.”
Harold Steerman is fixing up a house in New Albany for his granddaughter.
However, he’s run into a little problem. His neighbor’s tree fell on the house during Wednesday’s storm.
Some would think if it’s a neighbor’s tree, they would be responsible for it. But that’s not the case for “acts of God” like this one.
“Several years back, a limb fell off and knocked our chimney loose and we had to fix it,” Steerman said. “We asked him if he had insurance, and he said ‘it’s not my problem, it’s your problem.’”
In some cases, the neighbor is right. If a healthy tree is brought down by an “act of God” such as a storm, the tree’s owner isn’t liable.
“Healthy” is the keyword there. Steerman’s current situation might be an exception.
“We found out if we send him the letter that if he didn’t do something about it, that he would be responsible for it,” Steerman said. “So he was aware that the tree was bad.”
If a homeowner can see their neighbor’s tree rotting or falling apart and you send them an official letter letting them know, that now makes them liable.
Steerman claimed he did exactly that after his chimney was damaged.
“I would’ve had the tree cut down myself, but that’s his tree,” Steerman said. “He wouldn’t allow it.”
Steerman said his neighbor should be aware that he’s responsible for the damage. WAVE News tried talking to the neighbor, but according to a sign on his door, he’s out of town.
The next steps for Steerman is to dig up that letter, have his insurance look at the damage, and then put a price tag on it.
After that, he may send the bill right next door.
WAVE News talked to a couple insurance agents about what is needed to send to a neighbor. One said to send a notarized letter, another said it can be as simple as a text message.
Talk to your insurance before sending anything.
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